Danny’s oar-some row for Marymount

When Danny Scanlon rows his currach from Crosshaven to Cork city this weekend, he will be doing so in memory of his late aunt, reveals CHRIS DUNNE
Danny’s oar-some row for Marymount
Danny Scanlon.

THE tradition of the currach boat is a long one in Ireland. They have been around for 2,000 years and St Brendan sailed in one to Newfoundland in the 6th century.

The tradition goes back a long way in Danny Scanlon’s family too.

“My nan is a huge fan of currachs,” he says. “Her dad used to build them.

Danny’s hobby was rowing and building currachs with his relatives in Kerry, before he moved to Cork five years ago, where he also found his sea-faring feet.

“I joined the East Ferry rowing club last year,” says Danny. “It’s a really healthy and vibrant club. I love it.”

“The currach is built to go over swells,” he explains. “It was traditionally used to transport supplies and animals.

“The currach isn’t the main mode of transport any more, but it is still cherished and celebrated by many people along the Wild Atlantic Way. Some people still use it to haul seaweed and to fish.”

Danny, 27, who is from Camp on the Dingle peninsula, and who is a mechanic, won the Ocean to City race in 2012 with his uncle Brian and auntie Breda.

“It was a great occasion,” he says, remembering the mighty feat of 400 rowers manning Bantry Bay longboats and Chinese Dragons 22km from Crosshaven via Cobh, Monkstown, Passage West, and Blackrock.

Now Danny is remembering another of his aunties, when he puts his own currach to good use.

He is rowing the three-hand currach single-handedly from Crosshaven to the Port of Cork this Saturday, April 29, in aid of Marymount hospice.

“My auntie Marian passed away in January 2016 at the age of 56,” says Danny. “She was full of life and she always loved to live life to the full. She was a very fit lady and she loved to cycle. She joined the Tralee Cycling Club.

“My auntie Marian was sick for a few years. She suffered from a very rare form of bone cancer and she received stem-cell treatment in Galway.”

Danny was close to Marian and wanted to make a generous gesture on her behalf.

“I decided I was going to do something to raise money for cancer sufferers. And I wanted to do something in memory of my auntie.

“I had thought first that I would do the row for CUH. Marymount hospice was suggested to me and everyone knows what wonderful facilities the staff and the volunteers provide there for people who are suffering from cancer and for their families.”

Danny pushed the boat out.

“I circulated 40 sponsorship cards and I know I have lots of support. It is a cause that is close to everyone’s heart.”

He has put his heart and soul into his quest.

“The distance is roughly 15 to 17km,” says Danny. “I’ll be rowing anti-clockwise all the way to the city. There are no sliding seats and the two oars are 23 foot long. The trip will take three hours-plus.

“I’ve been training hard on land and on sea; going to the gym every chance I get to build up my stamina. I’m there three or four days in the week since September

“I want to be fighting fit. I’ll be facing currents from the River Lee and cross-winds from Passage West.”

Danny might be fighting the elements too.

“I have to judge the winds on the day,” he says. “I have to make the call on the day of the event.”

Can Danny swim?

“I learned to swim six years ago,” he says. “There will be crews alongside me supporting me on the journey. Mallow Search and Rescue safety boat will sail alongside too.

“I’ll be wearing clothes with sturdy material and a life-jacket.”

Has he contact on land?

“I’ll have my phone in a water-proof case,” says Danny. “That’s for my point of contact.”

 Danny Scanlon's aunt Marian, who he is rowing in memory of, in aid of Marymount.
 Danny Scanlon's aunt Marian, who he is rowing in memory of, in aid of Marymount.

Did his currach ever take on water?

“The currach, which is made of fibre-glass, got full of water once, but it still stayed afloat,” says Danny. “So that is great consolation!”

There’s not one piece of mechanical equipment on the boat.

“That’s true,” says Danny. “It’s made to ride high on waves, there is no rudder. It is steered by oars. Currachs are designed for sustainability.”

Danny has the skill and the stamina to handle the boat single-handedly.

“Seriously, I know the water well,” he says. “I will keep rowing and I will keep looking ahead at all times.

“While rowing, I will be calculating the wind and the current.

“I am hoping to get the incoming tide to bring me up to the city.”

The welcome committee will be cheering him home.

“My girlfriend, Nicole, is hoping to get off work to be there,” says Danny.

“She’ll be cheering me on shore-side if she can be there.

“I have great support from the East Ferry rowing club. They are a great bunch. I’ll be a happy man to land.

Then he can relax.

“Yes, The Idle Hour are hosting a party later. So that’s nice to look forward to.”

The staff at Marymount are lookling forward to their centre reaping the benefits from Danny’s marathon row.

“We are absolutely delighted Danny is taking part in such a unique event in aid of Marymount,” says Paula McGovern, who is head of communications and fundraising at Marymount.

“We wish him the best of luck with his charity row.

“We would like to ask people to support him as much as possible as he takes on the great challenge of a 15-mile single-man row in a three-man currach!

“In 2016, we supported more than 3,000 families in the Cork community. At the same time at Marymount we are reliant on the support and generosity of people like Danny.

“We need to raise nearly €3 million each year to ensure we can continue to deliver our much needed services.”

Information about Marymount, how to donate or information on how to support it can be obtained at www.marymount.ie or by calling 021-4501201.

Not many people have beheld the sight of a three-man currach sailing in to land, navigated by only one person.

“That is true,” says Danny. “I remember once, at Aghada Pier, somebody thought the currach was a gondola!”

Danny knows his stuff. He has been on the crest of a wave many times before.

“I grew up with currachs,” he says.

And the aunt that he grew to love and cherish all his life would be well proud of her nephew.

The row from Crosshaven to Cork City takes place this Saturday, April 29 in aid of Marymount.

IMAGINE having your own chauffeur. Imagine your very own seamstress, a nail technician or a hairdresser on call to give you a much-needed boost. Then there are those who will prepare you a home-cooked meal and blend a Tequila Sunrise for you during Happy Hour.

Imagine having someone always at hand just to cheer you up.

“Well, time is one thing that I have plenty of,” says Frank Peyton, who is one of 240 volunteers who freely give of their time and services at Marymount University Hospital. “It is like quicksand around here. You get sucked in!”

Frank, who is retired, adds: “I get to do a lot of jobs here. I do a lot of driving, escorting people to hospital for their check-ups. I meet and greet patients and family members and I often work on reception, as well as being a Minister of the Eucharist.”

Frank is good at multi-tasking. He laughs.

“I am. It is a pleasure and a privilege to work here. Sometimes, people are concerned when they come to Marymount. I settle them in and show them the facilities and then they all relax. The fear factor dissipates. I look at the patient, not at their illnessk.

“Often, when people are suffering an illness, they can lose their identity. I like to chat with the patients about their hobbies. I am on first name terms with all of them. The happier the patient, the happier their family.”

Marymount thrives on its volunteers.

“We couldn’t survive without them,” says Noreen Smiddy, Volunteer Co-ordinator. “They integrate into the whole community, including the medical staff, the catering staff, the patients and their families. It is all-inclusive. Every job here is valued.”

Frank wanted to be included when both his sisters, Phil and Sheila, died. “Phil had lung cancer and she was looked after in Marymount Hospice, Wellington Road,” he says. “Sheila received wonderful care from the nurses in her own home. I decided when I retired I would volunteer. I’m involved in Meals and Wheels too. And I do get fed at home occasionally,” jokes Frank.

The volunteers bring their life-skills and people-skills to the table.

“I am a seamstress,” says Mary Cahill, a retired primary school teacher.

Where is her station?

“Usually in the laundry,” she says.

“My mother was in Marymount in Wellington Road too. I minded her at home until she had to go there. When she was in Marymount for the last week of her life, all stress, worry and uncertainty disappeared.”

Mary was a regular visitor to her mother’s ward. “I made connections with the people there,” she says. “I taught one of the lady’s grandchildren. She was from Ardmore. She asked me if I would keep visiting her after my mother died. I did that for three months.”

Mary is good with a needle. “I’m good at repairing clothes and hand-sewing,” she says. “I thought, why not volunteer? I felt it was really rewarding and you feel needed.

“I label everything and keep track of the clothes. I might alter a pair of curtains that are too wide. It doesn’t matter. I enjoy being involved in the Mass and often do a reading. I love the interaction with people. The great history of care here makes everything easier. There is the utmost respect for everyone and each person is cherished.”

The pampering sessions are cherished. Mary O’Neill, who used to work in the bank, did a nail course when she finished there and says: “Everyone likes to be pampered, don’t they?”

How did she get the idea of volunteering?

“I saw a UK programme with Esther Rantzen on TV about volunteering,” says Mary. “I thought I could do the same here. I rang the old Marymount in Wellington Road. They told me to come up. That was 10 years ago. It was like going to school on my first day. It suited me to a tee.”

The menfolk like a bit of pampering too.

“They like to get their nails filed and they like hand-massages. I never view the people as patients, only as people,” says Mary. “The Day Care Service is very sociable, we all get to know one another. I often help out with the tea and go to the shop for messages. It is a boost for the people who are sick to have therapies not associated with the medical side of things. I find that they open up to you and chat away.”

Frank agrees. “Chatting is greatly under-rated. We all chat for Ireland. It is all about fulfilling the wishes of the people outside of their medical needs.”

The volunteers bond with the people.

“It is easy to get attached,” admits Mary. “There are long-stay residents here in the Service for Older People which is now their home. Residents don’t live in our workplace — we work in their home.”

Noreen is delighted with her team. “Curraheen became a new geographical area in terms of recruiting new volunteers and more volunteers joined here as a result,” she says.

“More professional people retired and looked to make their free time more rewarding. There is huge scope here for people’s talents. We have musicians, artists, singers. We offer art therapy and pet therapy too. It is all inclusive, operating within the organisation’s mission and ethos.”

Job satisfaction is paramount.

“Volunteers rarely leave,” says Noreen. “There are less vacancies. They enjoy their work. All the volunteers are willing to be here. There are many roles to fill; in the garden, in the office, general maintenance.

“Local multi-national companies are great to support us and part of the wider community. Pupils from Ballinora National School help maintain the gardens and Ballincollig Flower Club decorate our main reception and St Patrick’s Oratory.”

“Great friendships are made,” says Noreen. “The longest serving volunteer was with us for 30 years and then became a resident here. She even picked out her own bed!”

The rewards of working as a volunteer at Marymount Hospice are many.

“There are no wages involved,” says Frank. “But you get so much more out of it. You have the freedom to do it and you made the choice to do at the right time in your life for you. Most of us live near enough to the hospice and the 208 bus pulls up outside.”

The two Marys love to see people’s delight when they get a new dress or a nice manicure.

“It is a fun job,” says Mary O’Neill. “Patients love to see new style and enjoy the banter.”

And there are perks.

“We have a mighty knees-up on the first Thursday of every December,” says Frank. “All the staff and volunteers join in the party.”

Mary Cahill adds: “It is good to hold a person’s hand and to be able to offer comfort. The sense of fulfilment at having made a difference makes all the difference to you.”

  • Marymount University Hospital is a healthcare facility providing two distinct services. An Elderly Care Facility provides respite care, intermediate palliative care and continuing care. Marymount Hospice helps patients with progressive illnesses, cancer and non-cancer, when pain or other symptoms need addressing. Support is offered to families suffering a loss or who are bereaved.

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